Should You Read Shakespeare? Literature, Popular Culture & Morality

Should You Read Shakespeare? Literature, Popular Culture & Morality

Should You Read Shakespeare? Literature, Popular Culture & Morality

Should You Read Shakespeare? Literature, Popular Culture & Morality

Synopsis

The author challenges the artificial divide between high and low culture in this series of essays. Anne Neumann concludes that there is much to entertain us without recourse to pompous distinctions between Shakespeare and the Simpsons!

Excerpt

The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses

...was not the entire national culture based on the principle of borrowing whatever clothes seemed to fit,...take-the-best-and-leavethe-rest?...The optimism of those ideas! The certainty on which they rested: of will, of choice!

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Should You Read Shakespeare? is not an academic book. I imagine it instead for general readers who already love aspects of their culture but want to deepen and perhaps broaden their enjoyment of it. In fact, Should You Read Shakespeare? recommends an older, commonsense view of human culture that combines our need for enjoyment with thebelief that we learn truths about real life from made-up stories.

At least since Horace's literary treatise Ars Poetica (written around 8 BC), literature has seemed in this way ideally to entertain and educate: 'He wins every hand who mingles profit with pleasure, by delighting and instructing the reader at the same time'. In the Romantic Era, these aims were increasingly divided, however, and literature's purely aesthetic delights were emphasised: 'We hate the literature that has palpable designs upon us', wrote Keats. Once we restore literature's instructive or didactic function, however, we begin to heal a division opened, in the 'culture wars' of our day, between 'high' or literary culture and popular culture. That is, we see greater continuity between these two absorbing spheres of human . . .

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